Chapter II

It was by a feather-light touch that he had awoken. Like a flutter of wings against his cheek, the intoxicating scent of lavender whirling about him as he opened his eyes and understood it hadn’t been a dream.

She was alive. Elizabeth was alive. And she had kissed him good morning from the place where she had slept beside him. His back barked in protest as he shifted from his seated position on the floor of her cottage, feeling as if he had been thoroughly beaten from where the settee had apparently dug in all night. Prince Ferryl hadn’t even remembered falling asleep. He had only remembered that kiss of hers—the one that had shifted the entirety of the firmament, had changed his whole world—and the ensuing conversation. Of dreams forgotten and remembered once more, of a purloined past that had been mercifully restored. He couldn’t recall when that conversation had drifted into dreamless sleep as they sat arm in arm against the settee on the floor of her small sitting room. The fire that had burned brightly in the hearth only a few hours ago had died to nothing more than embers.

But he didn’t really care when they had fallen asleep, exactly. For she was beside him, waking as she stretched her lithe limbs, the feel of her curves in his arms a welcome, beautiful distraction. He buried his face in her neck in response.

“Good morning to you, too,” she said as she tilted her head back, giving him better access. He obliged her by peppering kisses along her honeyed skin.

Providence, this woman, this love of his life.

She was alive. And she was back.

He would never let her go again.

His lips found their way to her mouth, and he claimed her with a savagery that could only come from loving and missing one person for so long. She ran her hands through his hair and he took no small amount of satisfaction from the little groan that escaped her as he pulled her onto his lap.

“I wonder if you have any idea how much I love you, my Lizybet,” he said onto her skin, his lips migrating down her cheek and neck to that inviting place where it met her shoulder.

“An inkling,” she said, with a smile in her voice.

Lavender encircled him once more, threatening to intoxicate him into oblivion. Heavens above, that scent. He had loved it for years. He knew it, because he remembered it, thanks to the magic that found him with her kiss last night. But while he knew the scent, he had never thought to ask why she seemed to wear it so often.

“Why is it that you always smell of lavender, my love?” he asked as he dared to pull aside the shoulder of her dress to kiss the alabaster skin he found there.

She didn’t immediately answer. And while he might have remained distracted by the velvet softness of her shoulder, he found himself slightly curious as to her silence.

“My love?” he asked, lifting his head to meet her eyes. It was heat that kissed her cheeks. A grin threatened his mouth.

She fussed with a toggle on his jerkin, not daring to meet his eyes. “It’s embarrassing, Ferryl.”

“Embarrassing?” he asked, lifting her chin.

She bit her lip, likely knowing the effect such a thing had on him. But he was as stubborn as she was. Perhaps more. So he merely draped his arms around her waist and waited.

She sighed in resignation, pursing a smile. “For my sixteenth birthday, Mary gave me a vial of lavender water, but I thought it was too fine a gift for a servant, so I wouldn’t wear it. I put it away, thinking such things should only belong to someone important.”

Her cheeks heated once more, and he didn’t resist the urge to kiss them as she continued. “But then one day I decided…I wanted to know, you see, what it might be like…” She finally dared to meet his eyes as she said, “I knew I was falling in love with you, Ferryl. And I wanted to pretend—just for one moment—I wanted to know what it might be like…to be your princess.”

Rose colored not only her cheeks but her neck and her décolletage, but Ferryl did not laugh at her, did not poke fun.

“So I washed my hair with the lavender water and put on my best dress that day. And you…”
Oh, he remembered. He remembered that day, indeed. She had walked to the stables, her hair falling in soft, humid curls about her shoulders, her dress so simple and yet so invitingly fitted to her slender waist…

“If I recall, I think I told you that you smelled like an angel,” he said, laughing at his adolescent attempt at flirtation. He had wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld, too. But even knowing the closeness they shared—had always shared—the thought of revealing his feelings for her had terrified him then. So he had opted to flirt instead.

Apparently it had worked.

Elizabeth bit her lip again, and so he tilted her chin and claimed her lips once more.

“That was the first time I knew that I wanted you. Not just that I loved being with you—I had known that for years,” he said. “But that was the first time I knew that I wanted to taste those lips of yours.”

“You didn’t, though.”

No, he hadn’t kissed her that day. It had taken him nearly a year to get the courage to kiss her. But by the time he had, he understood that he had been falling for her—slowly, surely, steadily, roots to a mighty oak—for all of that time. And all the years they had known each other.

“I kissed you, my love, when I knew for certain that I would never kiss another.”

For a blinding moment, guilt flashed down his spine. For he had kissed another: Delaney—the Midvarish duchess to whom he was currently, inconveniently betrothed. He had kissed her only last night.

But not because he had loved her—not the way he loved Elizabeth. He had kissed Delaney because he had needed her. Needed her to help him feel something again instead of the numbness that had plagued him from the moment he had thought Elizabeth to be dead.

But she wasn’t dead. Elizabeth was alive. Alive and in his arms, looking at him for all the world as if she too had known she would never—could never—love another.

Providence above, should he tell her that he had kissed another?

“Ferryl?” she asked, her hand on his cheek, looking at him with that way she had of knowing him down to very marrow of his bones. Guilt nipped at his soul once more as he opted to press his brow to hers.

“You’ve always been my princess, Lizybet,” he said, stroking a hand down her hair. “And soon, the world shall know it.”

“Today is your wedding day, Ferryl,” she said with a hint of reprimand.

“Yes, and that is as good a reminder as any that I should get back to the castle and inform my parents of my change in bride.”

She chuckled a bit sardonically. “If only it were that simple.”

“It will be,” he said, making to stand, offering her his hand that he might help her stand as well. “I will settle for nothing less.” Easy words. Such easy words when he knew that when it came to his mother, nothing was ever simple.

There was skepticism in her eyes, which he knew he would find. His Lizybet was nothing if not practical. But behind that skepticism, a whisper of longing. It was the sight of that longing that had him pulling her to him once more.

“Trust me, Lizybet. Nothing will stand in our way this time.”

A coughing fit momentarily stole her attention from him, and when she looked back, that longing had melted into worry and dread.

Because her father was ill. Irrevocably ill. And she had arrived last night only to discover a damning truth—Bedell was dying.

Another cough, this one deeper, more strained, and Elizabeth didn’t hesitate to tear across the small space to the adjoining bedchamber where her father had been sleeping.

Ferryl followed her, thinking he could delay the dreaded conversation with his parents—a conversation that would likely change much more than just the person he would marry. Yes, he could delay that conversation just a little while, if only to comfort the woman he loved at her dying father’s bedside.


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Chapter I

Present Day

Something like a tidal wave of relief washed over General Titus Melamed, retired Commander of the Navarian armies, as he crested the rolling hills that surrounded his land. His home. It had been a grueling journey across the plains that separated Navah from the north of Midvar. A month of dingy inns and sleepless nights. A month of bread too dry and wine too sour. A month of nothing on his mind but starting over.

His horse crested the last hill that separated the wilderness from his land—the land he had inherited at the too-young age of eighteen. His parents had died of the sickness that had spread too quickly through the land, leaving him with nothing but responsibilities. No wonder he had sold his soul to King Derrick. To fight. To win. He had nothing else and wanted nothing else.

The moment his foot hit the earth beneath him upon dismounting his trusted steed, he fell to his knees, breathing deeply, releasing a solemn tear.

He picked up a fistful of dirt, the grit and pebbles grinding against his hand as he let it escape, floating on the breeze like a phantom. The familiar air smelled of summer and sun, cypress and mountain cedar, persimmon and pomegranate. The Midvarish skies shone with lazy vanilla light, the dusk slowly showing her splendor, dancing in a riot of pinks and coppers like a fire waiting to consume the day with one glorious final stand.


The manor was just as he remembered. Moderately-sized. Nothing too ostentatious, but certainly no shack or cottage. “Just right,” Penelope had always called it. The gray stones were covered in moss and lichens, with vines climbing up the walls like spindly green arms reaching for the realm of the gods.
Inviting, that’s what it was. Like a long-lost friend.

She must have caught sight of him before he saw her, for after his eyes had finished surveying the house, the land, he spotted his wife, standing in the front door, looking directly at him. He was too far away to read her expression, but she stood stock-still—a monument to bygone times.

No matter how glad he was to be back, he would never know if she shared in his gladness until he faced her. Would she forgive all those years of neglect? Of pushing her aside for the king’s duties? Would she ever trust him?

Perhaps the most worrisome question of all—would all of his sins come back to haunt him? How would the gods make him pay for his treachery?

The questions weighed heavier and heavier with each step he took to the house, to her, to his future. The future that he had clung to like a rock in storm. The future that had gotten him through the last few months—a light in the darkness. The future that suddenly seemed full of shadows and doubt.

She, too, began to walk to him. Slowly, tentatively. Every step closer tore at him in a way he hadn’t expected.
Penelope. Wife or enemy?

Yes, she had stayed. But why? Out of hope? Or spite?

It might have been an eternity before they reached each other. An eternity of steps crunching across the expanse of summer grasses between them. Fitting, he thought, that his final steps toward her should feel like dragging an anvil behind him, the weight of nearly twenty years of regret and stupidity a vice that would surely determine his fate.

He froze, taking her in. Her long auburn hair pulled into an intricate chignon at the nape of her neck. Her gown falling around her like a field of poppies. There was a little more silver at her temples than he had remembered. Then again, there was a lot more silver in his hair these days.

Beautiful, that’s what she was. Stunning. A shooting star streaking a dusky summer sky.

“You’re really here,” she said so quietly he almost missed it.

Her smile was tentative but true. And it was hope—hope that coursed through his veins like a summer wildfire. So he reached for her hand. “I missed you.”

She didn’t quite return the eagerness of his grip, her hand hardly clasping his. But he held on anyway.

“You look tired,” she said.

He touched the beard that had grown on his face since leaving Navah and looked down to his dirty clothes and mud-caked boots. He chuckled. “I think you’re being generous.”

She breathed a soft laugh, looking down to their clasped hands. When she finally met his eyes again, there was silver lining hers. So Titus threw caution to the wind and took his wife in his arms, holding her close. To his surprise, she returned the embrace, her breath warm on his neck.

“I missed you, too,” she whispered.

He breathed deeply, relaxing at the feel of her in his arms, taking in her sweet scent, the way her stray auburn tendrils tickled his neck in the breeze. “It’s been too long.”


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Fifteen Years Ago

Myron was late. Damned late. And these godsforsaken mountains were freezing, even though it was spring. The snow had melted for the most part, but patches of it remained scattered across the mountain, leaving the loamy forest floor a patchwork of soggy grass, crumbling dirt, and dirty snow.

Titus rubbed his hands together, clinging to the paltry heat that the friction caused, the kidskin gloves a pathetic ward against this icy wintry air. Dark. It was so dark that it was hard to see much more than the hands in front of his face. And he did not dare risk a fire as he waited. And waited. And waited for Captain Myron to return to their designated, clandestine meeting place.

The Navarian Commander looked up to the inky skies through the ceiling of conifers and aspens, marveling at just how bright the stars were here on the side of the mountain. Brighter than normal, somehow. Like he was closer to the gods.

But Titus knew that the gods paid no attention to him. They never had. And judging by the fact that Myron was at least an hour late, the gods very well might be smiting him, just for the Sheol of it.
Not that he didn’t deserve it.

The distant clomp of horses’ hooves tore his attention from the glittering skies, and he squinted to make out any sign of whoever was approaching.
Please let it be Myron.

A bronze Midvarish medallion glinted in the starlight—Myron’s horse. Thank the gods. Titus nearly cried out in relief, but silence was key tonight. Silence and secrecy, the two currencies of Titus’s whole godsdamned life.

“Where have you been?” Titus growled as Myron dismounted his dapple mare.

“We were delayed,” he said, carrying a limp bundle in his meaty arms.

“I take it you got one,” Titus said, stepping across the space between them, reaching out for the cadaver sprawled in the captain’s arms.

“The boys found several for you to choose from,” Myron said, making to hand over the child. “But they took such a damned long time about it, I just chose one for you and brought her as quickly as I could.”

Titus took hold of the bundle of ebony hair and dirty nightgown, taking just a moment to steal a glimpse of the child. A little girl.

A breathing little girl.

“What in Sheol is this?” Titus barked. Stirring. Godsdamnit, she was stirring!

“The tincture is wearing off,” said Myron casually. “You’ll want to find some more of it if you want to keep her quiet. She was the quietest of them, but gods, Titus, little girls? What in Sheol are you planning to do with them?”

“Not them. One. I said I needed one,” Titus barked, the weight of the child in his arms suddenly unbearable. “A dead one!” he added.

“What?” asked Myron, furrowing his brow. “You never said that.”

“Yes, I did!” Titus barked.

“You damn well did not! You just said to bring a little girl. You never specified that she needed to be dead!”

The girl stirred in his arms, her eyes fluttering. Tiny. She was so godsdamned tiny. He hadn’t expected that.

“Shit, Myron! What am I supposed to do with her?” Titus asked, the panic welling.
Myron reached to his belt, pulling out a dagger.

And in the matter of a heartbeat—one single heartbeat—Captain Myron slit the throat of the little girl in Titus’s arms. Blood, warm and thick, glistening in the moonlight, poured down her neck, across Titus’s arms. Bile burned in his throat as he watched the light leave her heavy eyes, as he felt her go even more limp in his arms.

He looked up to Myron, reeling from the shock. “What. In. Sheol. Is. Wrong. With. You,” he growled.
Myron snorted a laugh. “You’ve gone soft, Titus. You’ve been working for that damned Navarian king too long. Grow some balls and finish your job—whatever the Sheol it is.”

Rage. Rage and disgust and downright nausea roiled within him. It took a considerable amount of effort not to lunge for his sword and gut the haughty bastard. But that would require putting down the girl, and it just didn’t feel…right.

Myron turned his back, slinging a foot into the stirrup of his horse, a useless smirk on his drawn mouth. “Good luck, commander,” he purred. “The gods know you’ll need it.”

And then Myron was off, flinging himself onto his trusted horse and turning back toward the direction he had come in one fluid movement, leaving Titus standing dumbfounded in the mountain forest, holding a dead little girl in his arms.

It took him a moment to gather his thoughts and figure out what in Sheol to do. Her warm blood still dribbled down his arm, and blinding guilt nearly crushed him. He had meant for them to bring a dead child. A dead one. The whole point had been to avoid this very situation. Not that Myron needed to know that.

Titus knelt on the ground, setting down the tiny little girl as carefully and gingerly as if she were his own. He took off his cloak, the black wool merging with the midnight and darkness, the Navarian seal expertly embroidered on the collar catching starlight. He laid it across the girl, wrapping her still-warm, blood-soaked body in it before scooping her into his arms again. The only warmth he could offer her. The last warmth she would ever know.

He flung her over his shoulder, grunting as he mounted his own horse, setting off down the mountain, into the foggy mist below, knowing damn well that he just added murder to a very long list of the reasons why Titus Melamed would burn in Sheol.


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The Promised One :: Chapter I

It had been love—deep, abiding, earth-shattering love—the kind about which færytales are written and wars are fought.

So she could think of no logical reason why he could not remember it. Or her. In fact, she could only gape as she watched him ride, the morning sun casting buttery shafts of light across his back and through his unruly golden locks as he galloped away, growing smaller and smaller with each clomp of the horse’s hooves.

She could think of no logical reason why the crown prince did not remember her, at all.

It had been a strange morning, to be sure. Had anyone told Elizabeth that she would wake up and tend to her duties in the stables, only to find that her dearest friend in all the world—a boy she had grown up with on the grounds at Benalle Palace, the man she had fallen in love with over the course of those years—suddenly had no earthly idea who she was, she might have scoffed and said such things only happen in stories. Færytales. Fables.

Not reality.

But here she was, staring off into the golden plains of the Navarian countryside, watching her beloved ride away like a stranger.

A strange morning, indeed.

Unsettling, really. No, not unsettling. Crushing. It was crushing dread that bloomed in the pit of her stomach.

What had happened to him?

Crown Prince Ferryl, heir of Navah, had arrived at the stables like he always had every morning from the time they were children. And he had headed straight for his blood bay stallion, Erel, just as he always had. To ride. To greet the morning with a race, with a trek to the forest, to start his morning off with his Lizybet. Just as he always had. Every morning from the time they were children.

But unlike every other morning in her memory, this morning, Ferryl had not greeted his Lizybet with a cheerful salutation. Or a warm embrace. Or by pulling her into his arms and kissing her soundly—as had become his habit of late.

No, this morning, Ferryl had merely spoken to her as if he had never met her before.

“What’s this, then?” Elizabeth had asked, her back to the prince as she fussed with a bucket of oats in the shadows of the stables, surprised that Ferryl hadn’t already snaked his arms around her, planted his lips at her neck, whispered little sonnets of love and need and desire. A flirt, that’s what he was. He had always been a shameless flirt. “You make me meet you out here at the crack of dawn and don’t even have the decency to greet me with a good morning?”

Yes, Elizabeth had always spoken to the crown prince with a healthy measure nonchalance. And cheek. Such is the nature of the relationship between a prince and a servant who had known each other since they were young children.

“I beg your pardon?” Ferryl had asked.

A puffed laugh and then, “You’re in a silly mood this morning, Ferryl. Addled from lack of sleep, is it?” She grinned, biting back a smile as she kept her back to him. The heavens knew she certainly hadn’t slept much last night, for yesterday had been…like a dream. So she waited…waited for the quip, the punch line that would not come.

“My lady, I’m afraid you must have me confused with someone else. As it is though, I must get my steed saddled. I am expected in the city this morning.”

“The city?” she asked, whirling to finally face him. “But I thought—” It was only then that she had begun to understand. At least as far as she could understand. Something…something was fundamentally different about Ferryl.

His eyes, usually so violently blue as to make a sapphire pale in comparison, were hazy, cloudy. Like a foggy autumn dawn, like the mists settling over the ocean. And in his countenance she did not find the familiarity that a decade and a half of friendship could afford. No, in his countenance she found a stranger.

She swallowed back the barrage of retorts she had thought up and heard herself instead say, “The city. Of course, Ferryl.”

It was then that a grin found his sensuous mouth. And in a gesture so familiar, he pushed his hand through the messy thatch of blonde hair spilling on his brow. For a blessed moment, relief tapped on her soul. Relief at the sight of that effortless smile, that familiar gesture. But that fledgling little bud of relief was short-lived, dying a sudden death when he said, “Do you always address your superiors in such a manner, then?”

She found she had no retort and instead stared with mouth agape as he continued. “Indeed, it would not bother me, but seeing as you are new here, ah, what did you say your name was?”

“Lizy—I mean, Elizabeth,” she stammered. “My name is Elizabeth.”

A smile. A smile that could melt chocolate, damn him. He slipped his hands in his pockets.

“Well then, Mistress Elizabeth, seeing as you are new here, I feel that I should inform you that while it might not bother me to be called by my given name, were you to make such a mistake around my mother, I’m afraid the consequences might not be so pleasant.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” she managed, the title strange, foreign on her tongue. She could not ever remember a time when Ferryl had insisted she use such a formality.

With a tremble in her hands, she made her way to the wall of saddles that she might retrieve Ferryl’s. Never mind that she had never once had to saddle his horse for him considering he had always insisted on doing it himself. Never mind that she couldn’t have lifted said saddle with her scrawny arms if her life depended on it. She made her way to the saddle wall anyway, acting on instinct like…well, like a stable hand. For while she might have been a stable hand in name, she knew no more about the beasts than Ferryl apparently knew about her at the moment.

Ferryl, still a gentleman even when a stranger, noticed her ineptitude and quickly came to her aid.

His nearness was simultaneously unsettling and so achingly familiar that she had to close her eyes for a moment just to breathe. She had loved him for so long, so many years, that now, this unfamiliarity was…well, it was gut-wrenching, to say the least. She had half a mind to just grab him by his jerkin and kiss the sense back into—

“Are you alright, Mistress Elizabeth?” he asked. It was only then that she realized she was standing before the saddles. Eyes closed. Just…breathing. Awkward behavior for a stable hand, to be sure.

“Uh, yes. I’m fine. I—”

“Here,” he said, making to retrieve his own saddle, his solid arms pulling taut his gauzy white shirtsleeve. She found she could not tear her eyes from him, not even as his deft hands strapped the heavy leather onto the back of the sleek stallion, not even when he finally met her eyes again.

“I’ll be off, then. It was a pleasure to meet you, Elizabeth.”

She couldn’t remember what a proper response should be. Couldn’t think past the desire to yell, to cry What in all the realms of Sheol is wrong with you?

Oblivious to her inner turmoil, Ferryl mounted Erel and turned that he might ride out of the stables and into the sunrise with nothing more than a nod of his head and a lingering chuckle on his mouth.

And then he was gone, leaving nothing but a thousand screaming questions in his wake.


The Promised One :: Chapter IV

The room glittered and shimmered in the candlelight like the lights of a thousand upon a thousand stars. She laughed as she ran, her shoes click-clacking on the stone floors. But she soon threw her hand over her mouth. She couldn’t be caught. Not this time. She was determined to win the game, even though she had yet to. The sound of her father’s counting faded the farther she ran.

She soared across the golden floors—it was as if she was flying! She stifled another giggle before crouching into the tiny alcove. The alcove into which only she could fit—her favorite hiding spot.

She waited.

And waited.

Her patience growing thin, she was determined to wait it out. She wouldn’t giggle and give herself away this time—


Elizabeth woke with a start, her heart pounding wildly in her chest, only to be greeted by the wan light of the sunrise peeking through the old curtain on her tiny bedroom window. It had only been a dream.

A familiar dream. One she was fairly certain she had dreamt before.

But a dream, nonetheless.

Something oddly familiar washed over her at the thought of the glittering rooms. The laughter. The happiness she had felt. Had it been real? A memory? Even as the details slowly ebbed from her mind, she couldn’t put a finger on why they had stirred her so deeply. Yes, it must have only been a beautiful dream. So she stretched her arms high into the air and yawned with a sound she was sure was completely unbecoming.

With a sigh, she caught sight of the necklace that dangled from her neck—the stone and its crystalline center, sparkling in flecks of every color she could name and several too impossible for words, as glittering as the halls of which she had just dreamt. Beautiful, really. A trinket she had worn as long as she could remember—a mysterious link to her unknown past. For while she remembered every moment of her life here in Navah—every horse race with Ferryl, every picnic in their Secret Place in the cliffs, every stolen moment, every tender kiss—everything before it was a fog. A blur. A smear of oil across rippled glass. Close, so close, and yet untouchable. She was no one, really. Elizabeth probably wasn’t even her true name—just the name Bedell had given her when he found her. And for what felt like the thousandth time, she wondered if she’d ever know who she truly was. Spiraling down the chasm of her thoughts, she took hold of the stone and ran it along its golden chain as she stared out the window.

She thought about her father’s words, his implication that magic was somehow a sufficient explanation for what had happened to Ferryl. The mystery was no closer to being solved, never mind that it had been nearly a week since he had forgotten her. Or did not remember her. Or was cursed. Whatever.


Running the stone along the glittering gold chain, she breathed a sardonic laugh, knowing that by the end of all of this, either she or her father were sure to be proven a fool.

But at the moment, she didn’t really care which. All she could think about was the fact that the man she loved was likely due to arrive at the stables soon, as was his habit. And well, why would she miss an opportunity to see him? To even hold out the paltry hope that perhaps this had all been just a bad dream. Or that this ridiculous turn of events had somehow corrected itself.

She could not dress fast enough.


Thank you for reading the Sneak Peek Chapters of The Promised One: The Chalam Færytales. Want to continue the story? Click the button below! ~Morgan


The Promised One :: Chapter III

Everything alright, dear?” her father asked as Elizabeth plopped herself down into one of the two expertly-carved chairs that faced the hearth in her little cottage. Gifts from Ferryl—not that he would remember that. No fire burned in the fireplace, the coals from the night before waiting for her to relight them and begin the nightly routine all over.

Except she had absolutely no desire to prepare dinner tonight. Not since—

“Elizabeth, love?”

Elizabeth slid her gaze to her father, emerging into the small living room; he took a seat in the matching chair beside her, his silver hair glowing in the evening light that streamed through the windows of their quiet cottage. His eyes, so kind and colored with concern, searched her thoroughly. “Has something happened, love?”

She let her gaze flick back to the empty fireplace. “Something is wrong with Ferryl.”

“What do you mean?”

“He…” How could she say this? It made no sense. Absolutely no sense at all. “I don’t think he knows who I am.”

“Love, I’m fairly certain that could never be true,” chuckled Bedell, taking her hand across the chairs. His hand, speckled with age, the veins showing clearly through his papery skin, was surprisingly warm on top of hers, his grip somehow both impossibly strong and heartbreakingly tender. “He has had eyes and a heart for none but you for as long as I can remember.”

She only managed to huff a sardonic laugh.

“Tell me what’s happened,” he went on.

“That’s just it,” she said. “I don’t know what’s happened. Yesterday…yesterday day he…” She hadn’t told him. She hadn’t yet told her father what had happened. The question Ferryl had asked. The question a crown prince should never have asked a servant. But the promise he had made nonetheless. And she as well. “Yesterday he was fine. But this morning he…well, it was as if he had no idea who I was.”

“What do you mean?” Bedell asked, his voice kind but not terribly concerned. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh with relief or cry with frustration.

“I thought maybe he was just playing with me. Some sort of game, I suppose.” Never mind that Ferryl wasn’t one to play those kinds of games. Not so thoroughly anyway. “But then he just…left. And when he returned—which wasn’t until just an hour ago, by the way—he had a page bring Erel back to the stables. He never does that, father. He always brings him back. Always.” Always an excuse to see her again. To kiss her once more. In nearly fifteen years of friendship, he could never seem to keep away from her. Which was convenient then, considering she did not want to be away from him, either.

“It’s as if…it’s as if he’s never met me before, father.” She hated it—the tear that threatened to fall. The lump in her throat. She should not be so upset. For surely—surely there was some sort of logical explanation for it all. But the tear fell despite her. And she rushed to wipe it away.

Bedell only squeezed her hand.

“Have you…” she asked, pausing to swallow back the tears. “Have you ever heard of such behavior?”

“Hmmm,” he said, stroking his long, silvery white beard. He too stared into the cold hearth.

“Could he be ill?” she offered. “Is there some sort of illness that would cause such a thing?”

“I suppose it’s possible,” her father responded. “Logical, perhaps. But I’ve not heard of such an illness.”

She knew then. She knew what he was about to say. The explanation he would offer. The impossible, improbable, useless explanation. Her father, the Chief Advisor to the king of Navah, was little more than a believer of færytales. She gritted her teeth and waited as he finally said, “I have heard rumors though.”

“Rumors?” she asked, despite herself. “Rumors of what?”

“The Midvarish. They are rumored to have such abilities, though it is merely conjecture, of course.”

“What abilities?” she ground out. Waiting. Waiting for the answer she did not want to hear.

“Magic, my dear. Not true magic, of course. But the dark magic of Midvar. Dark magic that can take a person’s most cherished memories. Wipe them away with no trace or hope of return.”

No hope? No hope of return? Fear pounded in her veins, even as her mind—her logical, capable mind knew better than to believe such folly. Magic? There was no. such. thing. as magic. But still… “Why would someone want to take away Ferryl’s most cherished memories?”

“Why would someone want to take anyone’s memories, love?” Bedell asked in that annoying habit he had of answering a question with a question. Or a riddle.

“Father,” she muttered, glaring.

A quiet chuckle. “Memories, love, are powerful things, are they not? Perhaps in taking Ferryl’s memories, one might hold the power over Ferryl’s future.”

His future? “But father, Ferryl seemed perfectly lucid. It’s as if…it’s as if he has only forgotten me. What benefit could there be in taking such a memory?”

“Are you or are you not his future, love?”

And there it was again. Just as her father had always said. “The prophecy,” she said. And it wasn’t a question.

Bedell nodded, a twinkle in his wizened eyes.

The prophecy. How many times had he mentioned it? She could recite it by memory, he had reminded her of it so many times over the years.

A queen in the shadows

Who will bring forth the light

A king’s song sung through the night

On the wings of eagles they would fly

That the way for the promised one would be made.

But it was nonsense. That she—a nobody. A servant. An orphan—was somehow the subject of some sort of Providential prophecy. Never mind that she didn’t believe in prophecies. Never mind the prophecy made no sense whatsoever.

“Your destinies are entwined, love,” her father went on. “Should it really surprise you that there might be someone out there who would thwart such a thing?”

Yes. Yes, it should surprise her because she was no one. Not just in some self-loathing I’m not worthy sort of sense. But in reality. She was no one. A nobody. An orphan, abandoned, nameless child, taken in by a kind old man who fancied himself a prophet—much too old to be a father and much too kind to leave a little girl to her fate. And what a fate it would have been—abandoned for her death in the midst of the Wild Wood when she was little more than five years old. Had it not been for the old man beside her, she would surely be nothing more than dust and a forgotten memory.

But that didn’t mean that she was a somebody. And it certainly did not mean that she was a somebody about which prophecies had been written. And certainly not prophecies about the promised one, whoever that was.

She was certainly no promise.

She was nothing but a stable girl in love with the crown prince. The crown prince who apparently no longer had any idea who she was.

A nobody, indeed.

But this nobody was bound and determined to find an explanation for what had happened to Ferryl. And it would be an explanation founded in logic and reason, not magic and færy stories, thank you very much.

“Why don’t you use that calculating mind of yours and go and find an answer?” he asked, tearing her from her stricken thoughts.

“You’re actually advising me to find a logical explanation?”

A pursed smile as he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “I’ve no doubt that if there is anyone who can find the truth, it is you.”

“And so is this the advice of the prophet or my father?”

“You will find, love, that I am inextricably both.”


“Elizabeth, dear! What brings you here?” asked Mary, a pleasant smile on her rotund face. The morning had dawned bright and cheery, replete with hope and the promise of answers. So Elizabeth had bounded out of bed, swallowed a couple of quick bites of last night’s bread and practically ran the short distance from her cottage near the stables to the old healer’s infirmary at the back of the castle.

“I was wondering if you had a moment to talk.” The ocean breezes had already begun whipping loose tendrils of her hair out of her plait, but Elizabeth only absently tucked them behind her ears as she stood before the old woman—a dear friend.

“Well of course, of course! Come in, child!”

Mary opened her door and ushered Elizabeth inside, a shock of savory spices hitting her nostrils as she entered the healer’s infirmary. Elizabeth had always found the room to have an odd smell, what with the vast array of herbs and potions it held. At the attack of the pungent aroma, she had wondered how Mary could stand it all the time.

“Everything alright?” Mary asked, as she pulled up a couple of chairs around a tiny table.

Elizabeth sat down across from the healer, wringing her hands in her lap. She hadn’t thought about it before she arrived, but it became suddenly imperative that the subject of her concerns remain anonymous, considering that an onslaught of rumors in the prattling busybody court at Benalle Palace was a distinct possibility otherwise.

“Yes, Mary, everything is alright. But I wondered if you might have some insight for me regarding a friend of mine.”

Mary’s eyes twinkled, and Elizabeth knew she was probably assuming who that friend might be. Ferryl’s infamous affair with the stable girl was by no means a state secret. Still, “You don’t know her,” she added lamely.

“I see,” said Mary.

“Well, you see, it’s just strange because my friend, h—she lost her memory recently and I cannot seem to figure out why.”

“Lost her memory, you say?”

“Yes. It’s the strangest thing. One day she was fine, then the next day, out of nowhere, she couldn’t remember who I was.”

Mary cocked her head. “Couldn’t remember who you were?”

“Yes, and the strangest part is that’s all h—she forgot. Just me! Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Mary didn’t answer for a minute, drumming her fingers on the scarred table between them as she stared into the fire. “That is strange.”

“Do you suppose he’s ill?” Elizabeth asked.


“I mean, she, of course.” Elizabeth could feel heat rushing to her cheeks. Well, if nothing else were gained from this meeting, it was at least painfully evident that she would make a terrible spy.

“Well, my dear,” said Mary, “I’m aware of many illnesses that can cause memory loss. Fevers, especially. Has she had any signs of illness?”

Elizabeth did her best to ignore Mary’s emphasis of the pronoun for fear that she might give herself away. Heavens, she was most certainly a terrible spy. “None that I’ve noticed.”

“Hmm, hmm, hmm,” the healer said, drumming her fingers on her chin. “That is strange, indeed.”

Elizabeth’s stomach was a pit of nerves, not only because she knew Mary was no fool, but also because of the fact that the old healer seemed genuinely perplexed. What if something was truly wrong with Ferryl?

“Of course,” said Mary, “even if she showed signs of illness, I’ve never heard of any such malady that could take away only parts of memories. Or entire people. Usually, if someone suffers memory loss due to fevers or injuries, it’s as if entire seasons of their lives are erased. Like time just stopped for a while. Not individual people. That is a strange illness, if indeed that’s what it is. I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing.”

“Nothing?” Elizabeth asked, knowing a strange mixture of disappointment and relief. So Ferryl probably wasn’t sick. But if not, then what in the world was going on?

“No, child, I don’t know of any such illness that works that way. I would venture to guess that she’s not sick at all.”

Not sick. Not sick, but then— “Have you any idea what could be wrong?”

“It could be a great number of things, of course. But if I had to guess based only on what you’ve told me, I’d say it was likely the product of a spell.”

“A spell?” Elizabeth asked, resignation giving her shoulders reason to slump. “You mean like magic.”

“Yes, magic. A spell. A curse. Something meant to take a specific part of her life away from her.”

“But magic, Mary. Surely you don’t believe in such nonsense.”

“What is nonsensical about magic, my dear?”

“Well for one, it’s not real. Not to mention it’s a silly, antiquated notion.” One that had, thanks to the much more logical and realistic minds of the powers that be, been thoroughly and completely eradicated from the more educated sectors of modern society. But not, apparently, from plump and aging healers. Or questionably old, adoptive fathers.

“My dear, just because you don’t believe in something, doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Elizabeth huffed a defeated laugh. “Now you sound like my father.”

“I know that it is the plight of a teenage girl that she should never believe a word out of her father’s mouth, but rest assured my dear. Magic is very real and I daresay someday, you’ll believe that for yourself.”

Elizabeth resisted the urge to roll her eyes or cross her arms—a very teenage-like thing to do. Instead she only toyed with the charm that hung from her neck—one half of a stone, cut so expertly that the glittering insides shimmered in even the most wan light. A trinket she had worn for as long as she could remember, though she had no idea where it had come from. Her family, perhaps? Her past? But what was her past? She had never known. Nor had Bedell. It was a mystery she supposed would never be solved.

Of course—of course the world was full of things that couldn’t be explained. But just as the wind cannot be seen but it is there nonetheless, just as thunder answers lightning without remorse, some mysteries are better left to poetry and song. To the imagination. Some mysteries are better left unsolved. She just hoped whatever had happened to Ferryl wasn’t such a mystery. Because to explain it away with something as naïve as magic…

The world—her world—had always been divided into two categories: those who believed in magic, and the realists who comprised the remaining majority. She, proudly, had always been a part of the latter. Her father, obstinately, had always been a part of the former. And apparently, so too had Mary, which was surprising, considering there was nothing particularly odd or naïve about the kind old healer. Unlike her sweet, well-meaning father.

The problem was that if Ferryl wasn’t ill, and had not been the victim of some sort of magic spell, then what was wrong with him?

“Of course dear, without seeing her, I couldn’t be sure. Can you bring her here?”

“Oh, umm, well…” Sweat slicked her palms as Elizabeth tried to think of an excuse on the spot for why her mystery-friend-who-was-really-the-crown-prince couldn’t come for an examination.

“Of course,” said Mary, “it would be strange to ask your friend to come see me when she doesn’t even know there’s something wrong!”

Elizabeth practically stumbled in relief. “Yes, yes, I wouldn’t want her to become worried over something that is probably nothing. I’m sure it will correct itself.”

“Yes, things have a way of working themselves out,” said Mary.

“Thank you for your time, Mary. I’m sorry to have wasted it.”

“Come now, child, you haven’t wasted a thing! Have some tea with me! I haven’t gotten to see you much lately.”

And so Elizabeth obliged the kind healer, drinking tea and chatting for a good while, listening patiently as the old woman prattled story after story of her glory days and the creative herbs she had used to heal the royal family—a salve to heal the king’s mysterious injury, a concoction she had made that once helped the queen overcome crippling melancholia. But even the long-winded reminiscing couldn’t distract her from what was beginning to dawn on her: that whatever was wrong with Ferryl wasn’t going to correct itself anytime soon. Nor was it going to be easy to solve.